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The first recorded collaboration between J. Peter Schwalm and Markus Reuter, Aufbruch, is one of those very rare and unusual albums that unobtrusively, almost surreptitiously, wends its way into the subconscious. It compels repeated and often frequent replays, not so much to comprehend the arcane sounds, but to simply become immersed in the moods and textures the two men generate.
Synths, pianos, live treatments, programming and electronic percussion from the former interweave with the Touch Guitars, soundscapes and electronics from the latter to conjure up dense but gently enveloping sonic strands that initially engross and then, with further exposure, insinuate. For listeners willingly or not in the throes of this spellbinding effect, the music morphs from the deeply cerebral to an equally penetrating visceral, then back again; that range of dynamics depends on the natural proclivity of the listener or a spontaneous surrender to temptation, to turn up the volume.
As such, Aufbruch fully and completely lives up to the ambiguity in the definition of its title, alternately "departure" or "emergence." For every track with more than a hint of foreboding, like "Der Aufbruch," there is another offering a soft comforting balm like "Von Anbeginn." Yet as these vivid contrasts usually arrive in fairly quick succession, the two different sensations more often than not meld into a piece. Schwalm and Reuter posit ever-shifting atmosphere as a continuum of mirror images, a realization that becomes readily apparent by the time Aufbruch concludes with the pleasantly conventional melodic likes of "Abschied." The comparatively finite nature of this ninth cut suggests exactly how relative the passage of time can be the key to the abiding allure of this record.
Mixed, edited and mastered by Schwalm himself, this near fifty minutes album becomes a world unto itself quite soon after the first introduction to its tantalizing tones. And Sophie Tassignon's wisps of voice add to the seductive effect: wisely sequenced near album's end, seeming to function as something of a Greek Chorus, her singing on "Lebewohl" and "Losgelöst" (words in keeping with the name of the album, defined respectively as "goodbye" and "detached") provides self-referential commentary on what's preceded and about to conclude.
As with the music overall, it's not so important to understand the words of those titles, but simply process the underlying emotions with which the woman imbues them. Likewise, J Peter Schwalm and Markus Reuter, who thoroughly humanize the devices at their disposal as means of rendering a record that may well function as a supreme Rorschach test for the sufficiently courageous; all other music lovers among us can simply bask in the pleasure of Aufbruch.
Der Aufbruch; Von Anbeginn; Ruckzug; Abbau; Ein Riss; Der Iange Weg; Lebewohl; Losgelost; Abschied.
J. Peter Schwalm: Synths, Pianos, live treatments, electronic percussion, programming; Markus Reuter: Touch Guitars® AU8 and U8 Deluxe, Soundscapes, Electronics; Sophie Tassignon: Vocals on „Lebewohl“ and „Losgelöst.“